LOS ANGELES-In a remarkable move that raises Constitutional questions about fairness for apartment tenants and owners alike, West Hollywood’s liberal-leaning City Council has approved a pack of no-smoking laws that allows apartment owners to declare their entire property “smoke-free”–and evict tenants who dare light-up in their own units.

Under the new laws, apartment owners will be able to list individual units or entire buildings as “smoke-free” with a special city registry. When one tenant complains about another’s smoking, the complaint will be arbitrated by the local government. Punishment for ignoring the city arbitrator’s decision can range from a warning or fine to eviction.

For years, West Hollywood has allowed landlords to convert newly vacated apartments into non-smoking units. In essence, the longstanding law has allowed an apartment owner to automatically reject a tenant who smokes, even if the prospective renter is a racial or ethnic minority, handicapped or has other protections under Civil Rights laws.

West Hollywood’s new package of laws expands the city’s powers. And while some question whether the new laws are legally enforceable, anti-smoking advocates are confident they’ll pass Constitutional muster.

“Most landowners assume that smokers are protected under civil rights laws, but they’re not,” says Esther Schiller, a spokeswoman for LA-based Smoke-free Air for Everyone. Instead, Schiller says, smokers are “a consumer group” and thus are not sheltered by U.S. laws that outlaw discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity or other federally designated characteristics.

Though West Hollywood is one of Los Angeles County’s tiniest incorporated cities, it is often compared to San Francisco. More than half of West Hollywood’s residents are homosexual, the city says, as is the majority of its City Council members.

Some tenants who smoke say the new laws infringe on their Constitutional rights, in part because the ordinances allow the government to decide what a renter may do inside his or her own apartment. “The gay community has always fought laws that tried to dictate what kind of [sexual] activity could occur inside someone’s own home,” Geoffrey Green, a longtime West Hollywood renter and gay-rights activist, tells GlobeSt.com.

“But now, our own City Council is deciding what’s ‘appropriate’ behavior and what isn’t,” Green says. “That’s ridiculous, two-faced and dangerous too.”

Ironically, some apartment owners aren’t happy about the strict new laws either, but are afraid to voice their concerns for fear of reprisal by West Hollywood officials. “If one tenant takes another before the city and the city tells one of them to stop smoking, it’s the landlord who will have to enforce the law and pay for the eviction proceedings and court costs,” complains one West Hollywood apartment owner, who talked to GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

The strict new laws “put landlords in a ‘no-win’ situation,” the apartment owner says. “If I enforce the law, the tenant who I try to evict can sue me. But if I don’t enforce [the new laws], I can be sued by the tenant who filed a complaint. Either way, I’m going to lose.”

After approving the new package of anti-smoker laws, West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz said the measures are designed to protect “people with respiratory problems, asthma, compromised immune systems like HIV, seniors and children from deadly secondhand smoke.” Koretz also cited government reports that secondhand smoke may kill as many as 52,000 non-smokers each year.

Though the tough new anti-smoking laws are only in effect in West Hollywood, Koretz will soon be able to push for passage of a similar statewide measure because he was elected to the California State Assembly earlier this month.

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